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PHENIX IN SAN DIEGO.
THE Bay of San Diego is shaped like a boot, the leg forming the entrance from the sea, and the toe extending some twelve miles inland at right angles to it, as a matter of course, points southward to the latter end of Mexico, from which it is distant at present, precisely three miles !
The three villages then, which go to make up the great city of San Diego, are the “Playa," " Old Town," and "New Town," or "Davis's Folly.” At the "Playa" there are but few buildings at present, and these not remarkable for size or architectural beauty of design. A long, low, one-storied tenement, near the base of the hills, once occupied by rollicking Captain Magruder, and the officers under his command, is now the place where Judge Witherby, like Matthew, patiently "sits at the receipt of customs.” But few customers appear, for with the exception of the mail steamers once a fortnight, and the Goliah and Ohio, two little coasting steamers that wheeze in and out once or twice a month, the calm waters of San Diego Bay remain unruffled by keel or cutwater from one year's end to another. Such a thing as a foreign bottom has never made its appearance to gladden the Collector's heart; in this respect, the harbor has indeed proved bottomless. Two crazy old hulks riding at anchor, and the barque Clarissa Andrews (filled with coal for P. M. S. S. Co.), wherein dwells Captain Bogart, like a second Robinson Crusoe, with a man Friday, who is mate, cook, steward and all hands, make up the amount of shipping at the “Playa." Then there is the “Ocean House" (that's Donahoe's), and a store marked Gardiner & Bleeker, than the inside of which nothing could be bleaker, for “there's nothing in it,” and an odd-looking little building on stilts out in the water, where a savan named Sabot, in the employ of the U. S. Engineers, makes mysterious observations on the tide; and these with three other small buildings, unoccupied, a fence and a grave-yard, constitute all the “improvements” that have been made at the “Playa.” The ruins of two old hide-houses, immortalized by Dana in his “Two Years before the Mast," are still standing, one bearing the weather-beaten name of Tasso. We examined these and got well bitten by fleas for our trouble. We also examined the other great curiosity of the Playa-a natural one-being a cleft in the adjacent hills, some hundred feet in depth, with a smooth, hard floor of white sand, and its walls of indurated clay, perforated with cavities, wherein dwell countless numbers of great white owls, from which circumstance, Captain Bogart calls it “ Owldom."
Through this cleft we marched into the bowels of the land without impediment, for nearly half a mile, when being brought to a stand still by a high, smooth wall, McAuburn did proceed to carve thereon a name. But as he laid out his work on too extensive a scale, the letters being about three feet in length-though he worked with amazing energy-he got no farther than this-JO, when his knife broke and the inscription remained incomplete. Whether, therefore, it was intended to perpetuate to posterity the memory of the great Joseph Bowers, or one of his girls, we may never know, as Mac showed no disposition to be communicative, and indeed requested me to “dry up," when I questioned him on the subject. From present appearances, one would be little disposed to imagine that the “Playa" in five or six years might become a city of the size of Louisville, with brick buildings, paved streets, gas lights, theatres, gambling houses, and so forth. It is not at all improbable, however, should the great Pacific Railroad terminate at San Diego, an event within the range of probability, the “Playa” must be the depot, and as such will become a point of great importance. The landholders about here are well aware of this fact, and consequently affix already incredible prices to very unprepossessing pieces of land. Lots of one hundred and fifty feet front, not situated in particularly eligible places either, have been sold within the last few weeks for five hundred dollars apiece. “ De gustibus," &c. At present I confess I should prefer the money to the real estate. While at the Playa, I had the pleasure of forming an acquaintance with the Pilot, Captain Wm. G. Oliver, as noble a specimen of a sailor as you would wish to see. He was a lieutenant in the Texas
under the celebrated Moore, and told me many yarns concerning that gallant commander. Great injustice, I think, has been done in not giving to these officers the rank to which they are entitled in our service. Captain Oliver would do honor to any navy in the world, for beside being a thorough' seaman, he is an accomplished and agreeable gentleman. Leaving the Playa in a wagon drawn by two wild mules, driven at the top of their speed, by the intrepid Donaho, Mac and I were whirled over a hard road, smooth and even as a ball-room floor, on our way to “Old Town.' Five miles from the “Playa” we passed the estate of the Hon. John Hays, County Judge of San Diego, an old Texian, and a most amiable gentleman. The judge has a fine farm of eighty or one hundred acres, under high cultivation, and what few gentlemen in California can boast of a private fish pond!' He has enclosed some twenty acres of the flats near his residence, having a small outlet, with a net attached, from which he daily makes a haul almost equalling the miraculous draught on the Lake Gennesaret.
The old town of San Diego is pleasantly situated on the left bank of the little river that bears its name. It contains, perhaps, a hundred houses, some of wood, but mostly of the " Adoban" or
"Gresan” order of architecture. A small Plaza forms the centre of the town, one side of which is occupied by a little adobe building used as a court room, the " Colorado House," a wooden structure, whereof the second story is occupied by the San Diego Herald, as a vast sign bearing that legend informed us, and the Exchange, å hostelry, at which we stopped. This establishment is kept by Hoof (familiarly known as Johnny, but whom I once christened Cloven), and Tibbetts, who is also called Two bitts, in honorable distinction from an unworthy partner he once had, who obtained unenviable notoriety as “ Picayune Smith." On entering, we found ourselves in a large bar and billiard room fitted up with customary pictures and mirrors. Here I saw Lieut. Derby, of the Topograpical Engineers, an elderly gentleman of emaciated appearance, and serious cast of features. Constant study and unremitting attention to his laborious duties have reduced him almost to a skeleton, but there are not wanting those who say that an unrequited attachment in his earlier days, is the cause of his care-worn appearance.
He was sent out from Washington some months since,“ to dam the San Diego River," and he informed me with a deep sigh and melancholy smile, that he had done it (mentally) several times since his arrival. Here, also, I made the acquaintance of Squire Moon, a jovial, middle-aged gentleman from the State of Georgia, who replied to my inquiries concerning his health, that he was as fine as silk, but not half so well beliked by the ladies." After partaking of supper, which meal was served up in the rear of the billiard room, al fresco, from a clothless table, upon an earthen floor, I fell in conversation with Judge Ames, the talented, good-hearted but eccentric editor of the San Diego Herald, of whom the